Friday, August 15, 2008
Lessons from the Red Sox
Yesterday I went to watch the Red Sox take on the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. This was the first game I'd gone to in a while that didn't feature Manny Ramirez batting cleanup. While explaining to my wife how David Ortiz benefited from having a premier hitter like Manny batting behind him, a fan sitting in front of me who overhead the conversation said, "What's the matter with Yuke?"
He was referring to Kevin Youkilis, the player who was batting cleanup the night we were there. "Nothing," I said. "Yuke's awesome."
"Manny sucks," was his reply.
Oh how quickly memories fade. You might recall this post from last summer about Manny being Manny. Manny certainly could be frustrating, but he was endearing, and without question was one of the most prolific hitters in Red Sox history. Just four years ago he was MVP of the World Series as he helped bring Boston its first championship in 86 years.
Now I don't condone Manny's recent behavior. He pushed a Red Sox employee to the ground. He slapped Youkilis in the dugout. He feigned injury when his team needed his bat in the lineup. As a result of these transgressions (and others shielded from the public), Man-Ram was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pittsburgh Pirate Jason Bay. Just like that, the Red Sox were free of their idiot-savant slugger.
I think the Sox did the right thing, as Manny was undoubtedly a distraction, and negatively impacted team chemistry to the point where they've gone 10-3 since the trade. Amazing how the absence of one individual can have such a positive effect.
It's very similar - if not identical - to teaching. If students really want to be disruptive, they can, without question ruin the class experience for everyone. I feel it's important for teachers to have the authority and confidence to remove students from their classroom when they're unable to behave, just as the Sox were able to remove Manny.
Teachers need to be able to consistently draw the line and let their charges know what will not be tolerated. I once had a student yell out in class, "AIDS was invented when someone f---ed a monkey!" I told him that I just couldn't allow that comment in my classroom, regardless of context. (We were discussing Hesse's Siddhartha, and how the main character learns the art of love from Kamala the courtesan.)
He knew his comment was out-of-bounds, accepted that I didn't have a vendetta against him, and walked quietly out of the room without further incident.
There are just some behaviors that a teacher can not allow to occur. When they do, educators need to be able to pull the trigger and swiftly mitigate the situation. I am not a proponent of removing students from my classroom. I only send a handful out each year, and it is because they cross a very distinct line.
When students return to my classroom the next day, they're usually much better behaved, and we're able to talk about their transgressions and work out a plan so they don't happen again. Sometimes though, on rare occasions, every educator wishes he could execute a trade that would send a problem student away, never to return. Thankfully I've only had one or two of these students.
I think it's healthy to admit that there will occasionally be students you'll clash with, and that it is OK. The key is keeping collateral damage to a minimum while you do your best to work with what you've got. And when what you've got isn't working at all, give Theo Epstein a call. He just might be able to swing a deadline deal.